By Lethbridge Herald on November 25, 2023.
Theodora MacLeod – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
On a chilly Friday morning in Standoff, members of Blood Tribe Emergency Services, Blood Tribe Police, and the Blood Tribe community gathered outside the multi-purpose building looking a little taller than they might on any other day.
Forgoing winter boots for high heels, the men of Kainai Nation set out to raise awareness for domestic violence by attempting to ‘walk in her shoes.’
According to Statistics Canada, for the fifth year in a row, 2022 saw a rise in domestic violence cases. While incidents too often go unreported, the numbers show that six in 10 Indigenous women experience intimate partner and domestic violence from the age of 15.
“Domestic violence is everybody’s business,” says Doris Lowhorn, manager of Kainai Women’s Wellness Lodge, a women’s shelter that for the last 16 years has housed and supported women in the community fleeing abusive situations. “We help over 300 women a year,” she explains, noting that the lodge also receives around 1700 crisis calls and helps to provide things like groceries and household goods when needed.
When the annual event began a decade again, Lowhorn says it was much smaller. “When we first started out it was just Kainai Women’s Wellness lodge and some of the community members.” But four years ago, they decided to add the heel walking component and have since developed partnerships with the local police and fire departments.
Austin Arcand-Giant, a constable with the Blood Tribe Police, says he’s still new to the area, but has already attended a number of domestic violence calls.
“Out here in the Blood Tribe, our police force has dealt with 7,000 calls for service this year, and out of those we have had 79 reported domestic violence calls. A lot of domestic violence, especially out here, goes untold or unheard.”
Fellow officer Charity Poole adds, “We find that people (experiencing) domestic violence often do not report. We have neighbours calling in to report it.” She continues, “In Alberta, police don’t have discretion not to charge, so we always charge, even if it is just from a phone recording… or even just photos.”
The United Nations estimates that in 2022, around 48,000 women and girls world-wide were killed by a family member or intimate partner. In Canada, the proportion of women killed by a partner is over eight times that of men. Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability reports that about one in five women and girls killed by a man are Indigenous.
For those on the Blood Tribe who access supports, Lowhorn and her team work hard to provide a strong foundation for them to rebuild their lives, offering parenting classes, therapy, helping to arrange housing, and looking to traditional cultural practices to heal, including Elders who are always willing to lend support.
“The Elder and the therapist work together, she’s a native therapist from Lethbridge, so, they come together as contemporary and traditional. They come together to help the women to be grounded and to deal with their past traumas.”
Lowhorn encourages everyone to get involved when it comes to tackling the issue of domestic violence.
“It’s everybody’s business. If you hear, if you see it, report it. That’s our job as community members. If there’s going to be a unity on our reserve, we need be that person, be a voice for someone.”